Replacing the NFL: A Thought Experiment (with Chris Moore and Sam Mulberry)


Licensed by Creative Commons (Sean Winters)

Chris: “Baseball makes the fewest changes, as it is the most hidebound professional sport. It continues to hold its championship in late October. It continues in its failure to capture youthful players and fans.” (10% chance of retaking its former position as America’s favorite sport)

Sam: “This is kind of like betting on England to regain the imperial dominance which it had in days of yore. I kind of think that the ship (sneaky British naval pun intended) has sailed on this. Baseball would need to win back people… especially young people. Is it too slow and boring for our ADD youth culture?” (10% chance)


Sam: “At first blush basketball is your likely biggest winner here. Most of the skill positional athletes in football would likely translate well to the basketball court. Basketball covers a tough part of the year for people November to June. The weather is kind of crappy; you are stuck inside. Basketball also has the ability to market its players well, something the NFL doesn’t love doing. There would — all of the sudden — be a potential glut of athletic talent in the Basketball world. This would potentially improve college basketball. Even if the best of the best of the best players made the jump right to the top pro leagues, there would still be a ton of gifted players who stayed longer in college due to the deep talent pool. It would also probably require a mass expansion of professional basketball. Multiple regional pro leagues…with a national super league… Think of European soccer leagues and the Champions’ League… It would be really fun.”

Chris: “Basketball shifts its season earlier in the year, beginning preseason on September 1st and expanding the season to 100 regular season games. Having the most visible, marketable athletes expands market share most of any sport; but transient, small player base reduces team loyalty.” (24% chance of rising to the top)

Sam: “But the problem is, do we really like basketball that much? Do we really want more? The beauty of the NFL project is that for 17 weeks (plus preseason and playoffs) it manages to be both ubiquitous and at the same time minimal. Your team only plays once a week. They leave you hungry for more. It is the only league where people will regularly watch games that don’t feature their team. This is also due in large part to the ease of gambling and fantasy football. Basketball doesn’t seem to work with this less is more kind of approach. Perhaps it could be bigger in America than it is now… but how much bigger could it realistically get?” (25%)

The 2011 Hollywood Casino 400
Licensed by Creative Commons (U.S. Army)


Sam: “Too white, too southern, and too ‘redneck’ (if I can use that word. Can I?) [ed. Yes, on this blog] …and oddly at the same time too expensive. It is still essentially an individual sport. (Or should I say, “sport”? more on this later). And for those of you who want to talk about pit crews, and crew chiefs, and race teams, I would challenge you to ask any non-racing fan who is a regular SportsCenter viewer (a show which does cover NASCAR), “How many non-drivers can you name?”

Chris: “NASCAR holds roughly the same schedule, as they operate nearly year-round presently.  The Chase is expanded by five cars and five events. Growth is primarily in the South (or, shall we say, the SEC), but it fails to capture a larger national audience.” (5% chance)

Sam: “Then there is the question of whether or not this is even a sport. I’m not taking a stand on the issues… To be frank, I don’t care. But to deny that this is a question that looms over the sport is to be in some pretty deep denial… Like OJ looking for the real killer deep.” (3%)

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